So. Africa: Parliamentary filing claim over 115 mines flouting water use permits on preventing waterways pollution; several companies’ comments

Author: Andiswa Matikinca & Mark Olalde, Mail & Guardian (South Africa) , Published on: 27 May 2019

‘Big increase in mine water pollution’ 17 May 2019

New statistics released in Parliament show that 118 mines around South Africa are polluting rivers, inadequately testing for contamination or otherwise dirtying South Africa’s waterways. The figures, released by the minister of water and sanitation, Gugile Nkwinti, also show that 115 mines are known to be operating without proper water permits. This represents a significant increase from 2014 when the South African Human Rights Commission found 39 mines to be noncompliant. Violators are spread across every province and include major corporations such as AngloGold Ashanti, De Beers, Glencore and Anglo American Platinum.

…Asked what steps would be taken to address the deficiencies, Nkwinti responded: “It is not clear why transgressors resort to operation of mines without the requisite authorisation; however, the department continues to intensify activities to protect the water resources, as mandated by the National Water Act.” But companies’ responses to questions about the data highlighted the disorganisation in the government bureaucracy meant to police them. In recent years, the department has had only 35 compliance and enforcement officials to cover the entire country. This is according to a report by the South African Water Caucus, a group of nongovernmental organisations and trade unions set up to study water use.

The data listed elevated levels of pollutants at Glencore’s Mpumalanga mines, for example, but company spokesperson Lerato Setsiba said the department had not informed the company of the infraction. “Glencore has an extensive water-monitoring network on all sites where water qualities are measured every month and investigations are conducted on any exceedance of water quality,” Setsiba said in a statement. Other major mining companies also defended their infractions. Anglo American Platinum’s spokesperson, Jana Marais, responded to the findings that several of its mines, including the Twickenham Platinum Mine in Mpumalanga, discharged polluted water. She said the company was spending millions of rand on upgrading water infrastructure at the mine and that an external audit had found higher compliance with water permits than the department found. Chris Nthite, AngloGold’s representative, said the company was aware of the listed violations — which included waste spillages, stormwater management issues and unauthorised water use — and had addressed them. “[AngloGold] has offered measures to remedy any problem, or has not been contacted further.”

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Related companies: Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American) AngloGold Ashanti De Beers (part of Anglo American) Glencore